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Rural Australians want change to refugee policy

By Will Mead

Years ago I read a comment that I have never forgotten. It was in relation to the number of women worldwide every year who are either in slavery or who go missing. The statistics were mind-blowing, but because the 'problem' is there year after year these figures and those women are not 'newsworthy' so we rarely hear about them. Yet a road accident, a murder or a group of boys trapped in a cave are top news stories for days, weeks or even months.

This happens too when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. They are a 'problem' to be solved but they rarely impinge on the consciousness of most people. It has been 20 years since the 'children overboard incident' involving a ship called the Tampa was the catalyst for Australia’s current border protection policy. It is eight years ago now that our government decided that no-one who comes by boat to seek asylum will ever be allowed to settle in Australia.

We don’t hear about the men – and there are some of them in our Griffith community – who were eligible for citizenship more than five years ago, have passed their citizenship tests – but are still waiting to become Australian citizens. Waiting especially to be reunited with their families, some they haven’t seen for over 10 years.

We don’t hear about the asylum seekers who have been held in detention for eight years with no hope for the future. We don’t hear about those held in detention for years then suddenly released into community detention with no support.

A group of people concerned about the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers formed the Griffith branch of Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) in late 2018. RAR is a grassroots movement for the compassionate treatment of Australia’s asylum seekers. There are RAR groups right across rural and regional Australia advocating for the rights of asylum seekers: to be treated humanely in accordance with the standards set out in the UN Convention on Refugees which Australia signed in 1954.

Asylum seekers are people like you and me. People with families, people with hopes and fears, people with names, faces and stories like you and me.

But unlike you and me, they had to flee their country of birth. Leave that country they loved; leave family and friends. No matter how they arrived they have the right to seek asylum and to have their requests heard fairly.

RAR Griffith is hosting a screening of the film “Journey Beyond Fear” during Refugee Week. The film tells the story of one family from Afghanistan and their journey via Iran and Malaysia, finally arriving in Melbourne under the UN program in 2014.

“Journey Beyond Fear” will be shown at 6.30 pm on Friday 25 June at the Griffith Regional Theatre. Tickets are available at the Box Office ($5.00) and online ($6.50) We sincerely thank the Griffith Regional Theatre for their support in bringing this important film to Griffith.

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